As the country has been roiled by COVID lockdowns, riots, and demands for police defunding, another matter of law enforcement re-emerged briefly last week: the investigation by US Attorney John Durham into the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” probe of the 2016 Trump campaign, and the associated conduct of other federal agencies, including the intelligence community.
Fox News reported Thursday that Durham may not show any work until after this fall’s election, citing the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s longstanding policy of not taking actions on investigations in election years until the election is complete – to preserve its reputation of independence and avoid political influence and/or involvement – or as Barr put it in a February 5th memo, to maintain its “fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.”
While sustaining the principle of blind justice should not be disregarded lightly, the legal “October surprise” is not unheard of among the moral rectors at DoJ. In 1992, Iran-Contra Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh indicted former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger (under a DoJ led then by...Bill Barr) four days before the Bush-Clinton election. Weinberger had served in the Reagan Administration, during which George H. W. Bush was Vice President. Of course, no one can forget the legal gymnastics of former FBI Director James Comey in 2016, first saying in July of that year that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Hillary Clinton for keeping and transmitting classified material via an unsecured personal email server, then reemerging just days before that year’s presidential election to write Congress that the FBI was undertaking a further review due to information discovered on the laptop of former Democrat congressman, and ultimately disgraced pedophile, Anthony Weiner (who was married to Clinton campaign vice chair Huma Abedin at the time).
It was argued at another outlet last week that Durham’s investigation cannot produce a legitimate report/indictments at this point. The argument against bringing forward whatever he has before the election because of politicization is a straw man. Democrats will politicize whatever Durham does, whenever he does it. And as the history above shows, other DoJ officials have determined it incumbent in two presidential election years, in mere days before those elections, to bring forward new information or charges.
But this case has a crucial aspect that the others did not: it deals with the attempt by a sitting administration to influence an election, specifically by using the power of federal law enforcement and the intelligence community to undermine that candidacy, and failing that, to then undermine that administration once it took office. Remember, James Comey and his FBI subordinates Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page remained in government after President Trump took office for many months, conducting Crossfire Hurricane and Crossfire Razor, the code-name for the now-discredited investigation of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. DoJ disavowed its charges almost two months ago (though the debacle persists with the presiding judge, Emmet Sullivan, refusing to obey a higher court’s order to dismiss the case).
Beyond the publicly-documented, outrageous election-meddling, and ensuing subversion of a sitting president by G-men and spies, Attorney General Barr has said in congressional testimony as well as in public interviews that spying occurred against the Trump campaign. He also stated in an interview with CBS that “history is written by the winner,” which given the election season, is tantamount to saying “forget about hearing about any of this from Democrats.”
This is why Barr, prior “October surprises” and current DoJ policy notwithstanding, owes it to the nation to bring Durham’s report and/or indictments, and assure that we see them before November 3rd. Crossfire Hurricane and its attendant machinations by rogue FBI officials were the most systematic efforts to undermine the presidential election process, and that president once in office, that this country has ever seen.
Watergate was an elaborate coverup and gross abuse of power after-the-fact (the Watergate Hotel break-in), but the 1972 election was never in serious doubt, and the break-in was undertaken by overzealous freelancers (G. Gordon Liddy and company). The FBI’s manipulation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s (FISA) warrant process to pursue advisor Carter Page as a means for monitoring the Trump campaign, and then its subsequent abuse of that process to continue spying on Trump officials into his administration, DEMANDS accountability. And once more, their additional gross abuses in their entrapment of General Flynn (and the egregious conduct of Judge Sullivan since) similarly cry out for justice.
These were ongoing acts of a criminal enterprise within government departments, that were subsequently used for false justification of the Russia hoax/Mueller investigation - rank corruption at an unprecedented level. As Barr himself has said, if he lets the investigation get past the election and Trump is defeated, unless he can get the facts out in the lame-duck interim, justice will most certainly be denied by Biden and complicit congressional Democrats.
Some have argued that Bill Barr came back to DoJ for the same job nearly thirty years after the fact to see the department’s reputation restored. If he lets the Durham investigation slide, he will not only have failed in that mission, he will have left DoJ in an abjectly worse state. These abuses, this attempted coup, must be fully exposed, the perpetrators charged and brought to justice – without fear or favor, and as far up the ladder and into every corner the evidence leads. Anything short of that will not only finish wrecking the DoJ’s reputation, but Barr’s own, for an ultimate failure in restoring at Justice the independence, impartiality, and integrity he has repeatedly claimed commitment to.
Tommy Sears is a consultant who has worked in politics and Washington for 26 years. Along with working as a defense consultant, lobbyist, and writer, he has worked on campaigns from school board to President of the United States.